More than 100 democracy reform organizations are making another attempt at convincing Congress to take action to limit the influence of big money in politics.
A letter signed by 123 organizations was sent to members of the House of Representatives on Thursday, urging them to cosponsor a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment to limit how much can be raised and spent to influence elections. Some of the organizations include American Promise, Common Cause, End Citizens United Action Fund, the NAACP, Public Citizen, U.S. PIRG and Wolf-PAC.
If successful, this amendment would effectively undo the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which uncapped campaign finance limits.
Currently, 139 House members — all Democrats and one lone Republican, Rep. John Katko of New York — have backed the amendment proposal. But the resolution has remained in committee since it was introduced in January.
'Every single opportunity I have been afforded in this country can be traced back to the ratification of amendments.'
Wambui Gatheru is the outreach manager at American Promise, which advocates for amending the Constitution to regulate the raising and spending of electoral campaign funds. Originally from Connecticut, Gatheru, 24, joined the American Promise staff in 2017 after graduating from the University of Connecticut.
The following Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.
What's the tweet-length description of your organization?
American Promise is a cross-partisan organization committed to getting money out of politics, forever, with a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Describe your very first civic engagement.
Knocking door-to-door in my small town in Connecticut when Barack Obama was first running for president.
What was your biggest professional triumph?
Being a part of the effort that made New Hampshire the 20th state in favor of the 28th Amendment. This was something I'd been working on since I started at American Promise two years ago, and the legislation was just passed in March of this year. It was a surreal victory because it had been such a long fight. It took a lot of coordination on every level of civic engagement, but it's a victory I'm happy to have been a part of here at American Promise.
Field is the managing director of American Promise, which seeks to limit the power of corporate, union, political party and super PAC money in politics.
Despite what the Supreme Court has asserted, unlimited spending doesn't support democracy or free speech — and Americans know it. That's why more than 80 percent support a constitutional amendment to authorize limits on the influence of big money in our political system. People see how unlimited political spending is undermining representative democracy, distorting our economy and undermining public trust — and they want it to change.
Here's a recent example: Despite receiving cross-partisan support from across New Hampshire (citizen volunteers passed 83 local resolutions across New Hampshire in the lead-up to the statewide legislation) and in the Legislature, a resolution calling on Congress to approve the so-called 28th Amendment was vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu on July 11.
What could convince him to oppose the will of his constituents and the Legislature? Opponents of the amendment primarily argue that unlimited political spending strengthens democracy, increasing access to elected office and fostering productive debate, while limiting spending enables the government to limit speech about candidates and officials.
How do these claims hold up? Not very well. While the governor claims the amendment is "part of a national campaign designed to overturn constitutional protections of free speech," the truth is that unlimited spending distorts the principles established by the First Amendment. Let's break down this and other arguments against the amendment.
Organizer: American Promise
In the face of toxic political divisiveness and pay-to-play government, American Promise brings together and empowers Americans of widely varying political viewpoints with a common goal - eliminating the corrupting influence of super PAC and special interest money in politics and securing our rights as equal citizens. Nationwide, we are rising to the challenge, building an unstoppable network and movement, locally and nationally, to pass and ratify a powerful amendment to United States Constitution so that people, not money govern America. Join us at the National Citizen Leadership Conference (NCLC) to see how we can achieve this urgent, historic reform. Come away empowered, knowing that together, we can amplify our message in communities, statehouses and Congress. It's time take on super PACs and special interests to get money out of politics by passing the 28th Amendment.
Location: Hilton Crystal City, 2399 Clark St., Arlington, VA 22202